Remember the name Ryan Preciado – he’ll be on the lips of tastemakers for years to come. In January 2022, the 32-year-old artist, designer and curator opened the first solo exhibition dedicated to his handmade furniture and sculptures, “A Cliff to Climb”, now on view at Canada Gallery in New York (until as of March 5, 2022). In 2021, examples of his “Nipomo” and “Chumash” chairs were acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The first is an oversized, plush Deco-style armchair, carved out of hardwood and plush pointillist wool; the latter is a Native American reinterpretation of Danish modernist Børge Mogensen’s appropriation of rocker Mount Lebanon Shaker.
“I wanted to take what he took from America and reclaim it for native America, my America,” Preciado, who is of Mexican and Chumash descent, says, speaking to us in his large, bright, floor-to-ceiling studio. green, and exhibition space in Arlington Heights, Los Angeles. “It’s my favorite piece.”
For the past two years, Preciado has curated a one-off group show at the South Willard Gallery in LA’s Chinatown, and opened this studio a stone’s throw from the Underground Museum. Not a shabby pandemic resume for a 30-something with no art school experience, who learned how to make furniture by apprenticeship with a local designer in San Luis Obispo (known as SLO), and taking a few dab jobs. studio/gallery assistant in LA.
“Meeting Ryan Conder changed my whole life,” Preciado says of the South Willard owner, whom he first met just after moving to Los Angeles from SLO County on a whim ago. eight years. A Google search for “cool places to shop” led him to South Willard, which started out as a multimedia menswear boutique in West Hollywood. While this gallery and the design objects it exhibits would become his future, Preciado never let go of his past. “I really didn’t want to leave the central coast,” he explains. “I liked the small town vibe.”
Ryan Preciado’s California Upbringing
‘Chumash’ chair in white oak and leather
Born in East Los Angeles, but raised in Nipomo, SLO County, Preciado grew up going to muscle car and low-rider shows with his uncles, and powwows and weaving workshops. baskets on the Chumash reservation in Santa Ynez with his grandmother. (who runs a small heritage museum in Guadalupe). Preciado worked on a ranch and at a skateboard store before being hired at a furniture store in SLO, where local designer Jory Brigham sold his handmade pieces. The two bonded over motorcycles, and when Brigham offered Preciado a full-time apprenticeship, he dropped out of community college the next day.
“I just had to pick things up quickly by watching and doing. I appreciated Jory giving me time in the store when in reality I was probably slowing him down,” says Preciado, who speaks in a very thoughtful half-whisper. It’s surrounded by shelves (also of his own making) filled with design tomes and crafts from friends like artist Roger Herman, ceramic artists the Frimkesses and his Los Angeles skating buddy, the ceramic artist up-and-coming Sharif Farrag, whom Preciado worked side-by-side with after Sunday morning skating sessions to design a smaller version of his “Nipomo” chair, complete with orange steel legs, light blue corduroy upholstery and a ceramic knob designed by Farrag.
“In the same way that Peter Shire’s work is of a period, but also timeless, I feel like Ryan is building and creating that kind of spirit for that time,” Farrag says. “I’m just excited to see what’s next and I’m just happy to have this chair. When you can put a personality behind things that you can use every day, that’s great. It’s the future , guy.
Although Preciado’s studio/showroom is somewhat empty at the moment save for a mint and forest green room divider and a prototype of his new ‘Chicken Feet’ table, whose bases in white oak, visible through the glass tops, are meant to mimic those of the roaming fowl in SLO County’s Arroyo Grande town and the foundations of the Los Angeles freeways. Preciado hopes to provide a space for this kind of dialogue in his studio in the coming months. “I don’t have anything here, so it’s an opportunity to create new things,” he says. In many ways, it looks like his iteration of his grandmother’s museum.
“What’s interesting about Ryan is that he grew up looking at all these functional design objects that were also considered art,” says Conder. “Everything had a high level of functionality, but there was also artistic integrity, so in a way, art was involved through her grandmother all her life.”
The beginnings of furniture design
‘Pape’ cabinet in MDF and auto dimension paint
After they first met and bonded over a common interest in native plants, Preciado opened up to Conder about his hopes of working in furniture. The gallery owner connected the 24-year-old with his old friend Peter Shire and, after two months in Los Angeles, Preciado was hired as a carpenter in the Memphis band star’s workshop. He soon found himself making ceramics for Shire’s Echo Park Pottery collection. “At first it was a lot to win: sanding for hours, sweeping and installing parts, but I loved it,” says Preciado.
“In the studio, he was a bit of a Ronin. He wasn’t going to be a journeyman, he was already a freelancer,” says Shire. “He was working in fashion before he came here. like that – they would call it pipa and gloves in Spanish, “pipes and gloves,” for a country boy, he was pretty smart – and he’s a sourcer, he knew where a lot of obscure things were. He knew how to look for fabric. He’s a fabric guy. Great chairs revolve around what they are made of. He is completely self-taught.
‘Ira’, plywood, MDF, aluminum laminate, powder coated steel
After working alongside Shire for four years, Preciado took a gig as an assistant to Conder, who taught him design, offered him a chance to put on a show, and gave advice on his designs in grass. Inspired by the safety and comfort of relaxing in a sun-melted plastic chair in his grandmother’s garden, Preciado set out to design his “Nipomo” chair (and sofa) as well as the first “Chumash” chair. ,” all of which he made with a $9,000 educational grant from the reservation. “That’s what it takes,” Shire says. “You have to let it all hang out.”
Conder adds, “Ryan didn’t have any money, so he invested every dollar he could to become a designer. What Ryan did so smart was he really thought about the integrity of the materials he was using: white oak and alder for the frames, vegetable-tanned Horween leather for the seat. “Chumash” and Raf Simons Kvadrat fabric for the “Nipomo chair and sofa”. He tried to do things with the most integrity, which is really interesting for someone who comes from limited means. But he’s always looking and looking for stuff, he’s a very curious guy.
Ryan Preciado: New Design Works at Canada Gallery, New York
Installation view at Canada Gallery
This curiosity, relentless pursuit of executing new ideas at a high level, and easy-going nature led Preciado to be able to have enough work for the Canada Gallery exhibition within three years of the publication of his first piece on Instagram. The opportunity presented itself through another Conder connection: the now in-demand painter Matt Connors, another South Willard alumnus.
“He took an interest in my furniture in a way that made me want to question things and work a little harder,” says Preciado. “He was the first to buy a ‘Nipomo’ chair. We were talking about architecture and design and out of the blue, one day he offered me this show.’ Connors is exhibiting new paintings in the main Canadian gallery and was supposed to have work in the smaller space, but suggested Preciado use the space.
With a year to make it happen, Preciado set to work creating “A Cliff to Climb.” In addition to his chairs, “Nipomo” lamp in self-painted poplar (which he also shows as a free-standing sculpture in unpainted white oak without a bulb), Preciado has created a vertical chest of drawers veneered with a bird’s eye from 30 year old faded by the maple sun which he calls “Snow White and the Seven Drawers”.
His obsession with automotive paint can be found in his “Pope” cabinet, which takes the shape of the zucchini (cranial cap) of the pontiff. To achieve the perfect finish, he had an auto painter named José Angulo coat it with thick coats of Dimension green automotive paint – driving it in and out of an active body shop in Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights. as the cars came to be sprayed – it took two months to do well.
A black room divider with interior shelves for sculptures and books gets the same heavy paint treatment. (In fact, most of Preciado’s work uses automotive paint as a nod to the low-rider culture he grew up with.) Preciado even had Canada Gallery invite visitors to sit down on the chairs, as a means of “domesticating” the space. “It’s disarming, it asks you to be a part of that piece and to sit down and take your time, which is fine, especially in a gallery space,” Preciado says. “I’m just happy to be hopefully a little disarming.”
‘Nipomo’ lamp, in turned wood and enamel paint
Elsewhere, the “Ira” shelf, carved from MDF and aluminum veneer, exudes a Silver Factory-meets-Sottsass vibe with a native-style red sun sculpture attached to the top in place of a smile. The piece is Preciado’s interpretation of a photo of himself and his mother, arms outstretched, during a skating session on an old ice rink. There’s even a hard-edged Op Art painting, Sun, made with leftover paint, which presides over the show. The exhibition could be considered a collaboration, as the works of Connors and Preciado blend into each other’s galleries seamlessly. The pair have a book coming out in time for closing, which Preciado explains will be “our common thread which is basically the everyday objects that interest us, like the close-up of a doorknob.”
Perhaps the most disarming or grounded object in the series is perhaps the one thing Preciado didn’t create. Above its white oak ‘Prado’ table rests an antique Chumash pestle. ‘I believed that it was [key] make room for something that’s really important,” he says. “My grandmother used to tell me about how everything was created for a specific reason and things were done with integrity and how this pestle could be used today the same way it was a long time ago. thousands of years. It’s always been with me, this object being able to withstand time. That’s why I use white oak in a lot of rooms. I want it to last. §
‘Snow White and the Seven Drawers’, in lacquered wood, sun-bleached laminate
Oak table with houndstooth base
‘Prado’ table with old Chumash pestle